Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fun and Frugal Gift Ideas

I don't know what it is about late spring and early summer, but I always feel like it's the second-busiest time of year for gift giving. Blame graduations, Mother's/Father's Day, spring birthdays, summer weddings - I even feel like more babies are being born at this time in the year (maybe that's just a coincidence). You might already be strapped for cash, but you don't want these festive occasions to go without a gift! By stretching your creative skills and using just a little bit of money, you can give some fabulous gifts to your friends and family.

1) Homemade recipe book - I received a homemade recipe book for my wedding shower last year made with love by my stepmom and it was honestly one of the best gifts I've ever received. It was a simple, small 3-ring binder covered with cute scrapbook paper and filled with recipes from my friends and family. I have my grandma's famous sticky bun recipe to campfire standbys from friends. Plus, there are blank sheets of notebook paper to add to the book later on. Sentimental, personal and practical - a great gift. You can be as creative as you'd like!

Cost: $10 and up, depending on materials used
Time: At least an hour to assemble and decorate, more if you plan on collecting recipes from others
Good for: new moms needing kid-friendly recipes, or a newlywed to add to their kitchen

2) Potted plant - I used to be a big fan of giving people flowers for their birthday. Beautiful, festive, and easy. But after a week, your present is shriveled up or in the garbage. The solution: a potted plant. There are a ton of varieties that are easy to take care of and that do well in office settings. Added bonus - people surrounded by nature at home or work tend to be happier. And don't you want that for your friends? Pick small, bright ceramic pots for an added happiness boost. Another great plant to pot - herbs! I love the idea of giving someone a basil plant and then adding a recipe card for homemade pesto or something! See Frugal Femme's post "Herbalicious" for more details.

Cost: $6 and up, depending on plant variety and pot
Time: Barely any - go to Home Depot, Lowe's or even some grocery stores, like Trader Joe's and walk out with a great plant in minutes
Good for: a recent grad to put in their new cube...if they have a job...

3) Mug filled with tea/coffee - it sounds so manufactured because you can buy them at any Starbucks/Borders/random bookstore, but a friend gave me a yellow mug filled with delicious tea for my birthday a couple of years ago and I loved it! Every time I drink something out of that mug, I think of my lovely friend Julia. You can find good quality and affordable mugs at Target, and select the recipient's favorite tea, coffee or other warm beverage. Wrap it in clear plastic wrap, tie with a pretty ribbon and it's even a beautiful presentation.

Cost: around $12 for mug, supplies and wrapping
Time: minimal - maybe a half hour to find the perfect mug
Good for: your friend to start her day and think of you!

4) Magazine subscription - I love to read magazines! I subscribe to 4 (which is down from 7 a few years ago), and who wouldn't want a fun magazine to read for a year? The key is knowing who you're getting it for - maybe you have someone who is super organized and would love "Real Simple", or a healthy cook who might need "Cooking Light" for some inspiration and new recipes. Make sure you have the recipient's address!

Cost: depending on type of magazine/frequency of issues, starting at $12
Time: almost none - go to magazine website, pay online
Good for: anyone who likes to read and learn new things!

I'd love to hear any other ideas for fun, frugal gifts! Do share!


  1. Liking the new look! Great tips too!

  2. Frommer's Bugdet Travel magazine is a fun and truly frugal gift! For both you and the recipient!